Second Bank of the United States
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the Second Bank consists of a central hall and anterooms lined with 185 portraits of prominent early Americans, including the Founding Fathers, military officers, explorers, and scientists. Many paintings are by artist Charles Willson Peale, the foremost portraitist of the day.
Admission is free and visitors roam the galleries independently. You can visit via a hop-on hop-off bus, which stops nearby at the Liberty Bell, or for ease and to benefit from a guide, on a sightseeing tour. Some excursions that focus on Philadelphia’s history include a brief visit to peruse the bank’s portraits, while others pair an exterior stop with other historical sites and food tastings and pub visits. Alternate options include evening ghost-oriented tours that pass the bank while revealing the darker side of its past.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Allow 45 minutes to take in the artworks and architecture.
- Captions by the paintings outline the subject’s life and achievements for useful background.
- On-site facilities include restrooms and drinking fountains.
- The building is fully stroller- and wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
The Second Bank of the United States stands on Chestnut Street just a short walk from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The easiest way to get there from within the Independence National Historical Park is on foot. If you’re coming from elsewhere, the nearest bus stop—Chestnut Street and 4th Street—sits outside, and the closest subway station is 5th Street-Independence Hall. While driving in the area isn’t recommended, there are several parking garages nearby.
When to Get There
The Second Bank of the United States is open on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, but not public holidays. The gallery is normally relatively quiet—even during the peak summer season—so makes a peaceful retreat from the usually busy streets outside.
What to See at the Second Bank of the United States
The Second Bank’s artworks serve as a who’s who of the early US, bringing you eye-to-eye with figures such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton—the latter immortalized in the award-winning Broadway musical. If you can, spare some time to admire the building with its grand Doric columns—its architect, William Strickland, took his inspiration from Athens’ Parthenon.
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- Library Hall (American Philosophical Society Museum)
- Dolley Todd House
- New Hall Military Museum
- National Liberty Museum
- Carpenters' Hall
- Independence Mall
- Independence National Historical Park
- Liberty Bell Center
- National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH)
- Philadelphia Old City Hall
- Congress Hall in Philadelphia
- Museum of the American Revolution
- Franklin Court
- Powel House
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier